Saturday, October 4, 2014

Imagine Alex Salmond with a TV channel

Today I spoke with a person who participated in the Better Together campaign in Scotland. He was asked about the role of public media during the campaign, since the Catalan publicly owned media is playing a key role in the mobilization of pro-independence supporters in Catalonia. He explained that the BBC had been neutral all along. The Better Together campaign not always agreed with the broadcaster, but whenever the campaign had some complaint, they delivered it privately. Instead, the Yes campaign organized rallies against the BBC, which was accused by them of biased coverage. The Yes campaign intimidated and harassed BBC and other journalists. It was part of what some have referred to as the tendency of the pro-independence side to behave in ways similar to the mob rule. What our Scottish friend had a hard time in understanding was that there was a TV channel owned by the Catalan autonomous government. In the UK, since by law and by culture the public broadcasters have to be neutral and independent, there is no question that with one public channel for the whole UK, the BBC, the most prestigious news organization in the world, no one else should create a public broadcaster, and much less a non-neutral one. The White Book on Scottish independence did not pledge to create an ex novo new channel in case of independence, but just to transfer all BBC assets in Scotland to the new Scottish independent state. However, in Spain, with a tradition of biased public television from the years of one single (francoist) channel, decentralization involved the creation of TV channels in all the regions, all of them being absolutely biased in favour of their regional governments. The Catalan TV is a case in point, and its bias has intensified in the last few years, and has played a key role in the intensification of the pro-secession fervour. If you are British, try to imagine a TV channel at the absolute service of Alex Salmond and the yes campaign. If that had been the case, probably David Cameron would have thought twice about the wisdom of calling a referendum, and today most European governments would not be thinking that he was the most irresponsible of the European leaders for actually calling it, and creating a cascade effect that is now threatening the stability of other European countries.

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